"Everything right in front of us always looks like just the worst thing," former President Barack Obama tells Conan O'Brien in an exclusive clip from the Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend podcast

By Glenn Garner
May 30, 2021 08:00 AM
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Barack Obama has continued to offer words of wisdom since leaving office in 2017.

In a PEOPLE exclusive clip from Sunday's episode of the Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend podcast, the 59-year-old former president shares some perspective on the state of the country's divided nation. "Everything right in front of us always looks like just the worst thing," Obama tells host Conan O'Brien.

After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice and economic uncertainty, Obama shares some of the same wisdom he's imparted on his daughters Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22. "What I always tell young people is, if you examine history, then you come to the conclusion that as terrible as things are, the world is healthier, better educated, kinder on average than just about any time in human history," the A Promised Land author explains.

"The problem is we just don't make progress in a straight line. We have to be vigilant. We have to work hard. We have to push and be resilient," the father of two continues.

"That is what I hope I've instilled, not just in my daughters, and Michelle's instilled in our daughters, I hope that our body of work that continues is instilling in young people that sense of, 'Yeah, it's hard. You're not going to get a hundred percent of what you're hoping for. There'll still be injustice and racism and ignorance, but you can make things better,' " he says.

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Obama previously told PEOPLE that Sasha and Malia felt "the need to participate" in the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

"I didn't have to give them a lot of advice because they had a very clear sense of what was right and what was wrong and [of] their own agency and the power of their voice and the need to participate," he said in November, ahead of the release of his memoir A Promised Land.

"Malia and Sasha found their own ways to get involved with the demonstrations and activism that you saw with young people this summer, without any prompting from Michelle and myself, on their own initiative," Obama added. "They didn't do it in a way where they were looking for limelight. They were very much in organizer mode. I could not have been prouder of them."

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama has also expressed her pride in their daughters and how they've used their voices. "What I hope they learn is that who they are right now is enough," the Becoming author told Good Morning America in March. "I always have wanted them to start practicing the power of their voices very early on."

Mrs. Obama added, "If you sit around the dinner table, me and Barack, we can't get a word in edgewise and we like it like that. We want to hear their thoughts and their opinions, and that's where it begins."

Obama's full Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend interview will air on Monday at midnight ET wherever podcasts are available.